Monday, February 6, 2012

Contraception controversy

Almost-full moon set the last few mornings; I believe it will be a completely full moon tonight/tomorrow AM.  I will miss these lunar shows as well as my new deer, squirrel, bird, skunk, fox and rabbit early morning friends as this Sunday will be my last day to deliver papers.  I gave notice 3 1/2 weeks ago and have been counting down the days ever since.  I am not sure if the loss of income can be covered, but with Nora's new job which started late last summer and the two promotions I have received since October, we will give it a month to see.  Perhaps I will have to set my alarm for 2:57 AM once a week just for old times sake!

I read an interesting article in January's Smithsonian about Roger Williams.  See link below to cut and paste into your browser.

Don't know the name Roger Williams?  Don't worry, very few people do.  He was a Puritan minister who bucked the thinking and theology of his time by writing and arguing for the separation of church and state, in the 1600's!
It would be a disservice to the Smithsonian article for me to attempt to summarize this story.  Please, spend a few minutes and read it for your self.  Let it suffice to say that Mr. Williams thought the government too corrupt to be involved in the authorization or even tacit support of any religion.  So, at a time when the governments of the early pilgrims borrowed heavily from the tenants of their religion, Mr Williams nary mentioned God or a verse of the Bible in his "compacts".  He was all about keeping ones religion private, and he paid the price of this belief by being banished from the colonies he was instrumental in founding.  At the end, he was not able to convince his peers that government should be truly separate from the church and religious worhip/thought.  He died, belonging to no church, as he believed that God's will was "better discerned by individuals than by institutions". 

But the truly remarkable thing about Roger Williams was his effect on the thinkers of the day and the days to follow.  In particular, John Locke was influenced by Williams' groundbreaking work The Bloody Tenent.  And for those students of the founding fathers, it was Locke's work that Jefferson, Madison and other architects of the US Constitution studied.  Strange then, isn't it, that an extremely religious Puritan of the 17th century helped inspire the very document that established the American experiment in governance.  An experiment that still features a sometimes vitriolic, always contentious debate on the relationship between church and state.

Which, of course, brings us to the current debate surrounding the mandate within the health care reforms of 2010 which requires insurance companies to provide birth control coverage for all employers, even those of religious affiliation.  Just this past weekend, the spiritual leader of the Philadelphia Archdiocese produced a letter which was read at all masses decrying this decision citing separation of church and state as one of its arguments.  Why should we be forced to provide birth control for our employees when this practice violates our religious beliefs? says the letter which encourages all parishioners to contact their federal reps and relay their displeasure at the Obama Administration.  And, if the mandate was not enough, the law calls for a fine against the employer for each violation, a fine which will force these religious affiliated hospitals to either eliminate their health coverage in its entirety, or pay for and provide a service which goes against their dogma.

I can understand the outrage of feeling one's beliefs are being trumped by one's very own government.  It is easy to forget that just 50 years ago, John F Kennedy had to dispel the ridiculous notion that should he be elected president he would look to Rome for his decisions.   And, while it has only marginally been addressed, there are those who have suggested that Mitt Romney is unfit to lead America because he is a Mormon, a religion that some call non-Christian at best, a cult at worst.  Clearly, discrimination based on one's religion, is not to be tolerated. 

But, of course, it goes both ways.  Should we then expect an employee of a catholic affiliated hospital to be catholic?  Should all the health care providers of these organizations follow all tenants of the catholic religion, including those tenants that believe that birth control is unnatural?  Should only catholics be admitted into the hospital? 

I guess for me, it comes down to this.  Does a patients right to health care trump the religions beliefs of the health care provider?  If not, should that health care provider rethink their duty to provide the best and most comprehensive health care possible?

What annoys me is that the church's rule on birth control smacks more of male control over woman than a religious belief that helps one attain eternal life.  Isn't it a bit hypocritical for those who have adopted the very real and difficult vow of chastity to make decisions for others about the very real and difficult decision to have a child or not to have a child?  And, not withstanding those quoted who were outraged by this decision, isn't it true that a large percentage of catholics in fact, birth control?  It is certainly easy for the older people among the flock to support this dogma, but what about the real life experiences of young adults, married or not. 

In the end, perhaps Roger Williams was right about the need for a complete separation and his belief that understanding God's will is better left to each person rather than any institution, church or state.

1 comment:

  1. Our laws have long made health plans available to most people in the form of "employee benefits" received through their employers. Apart from political expediency, employers really did not need to be involved at all, but since the law put them in that position, they effectively have had a say in what types of plans are available to their employees. Some employers have even taken advantage of their position to tailor the plans they make available to fit their own religious views, rather than leave such matters to their employees.

    Now that the government has prescribed that health plans provide some services that do not conform to the religious views of some employers, those employers have complained they face a moral bind--that is they are forced to provide plans that include services they find objectionable. This moral bind could have been avoided if the law had not required employers to provide such qualifying health plans and, instead, simply made such plans readily and directly available to everyone, funding them, at least partly, through taxes or assessments paid by employers relieved of the burden of providing health plans. Had the government done that, employers would not face a moral bind and health plans would be widely available as the law intends.

    Oh. Wait. Does the current health law afford employers that very option? Why, yes, it does. Eureka! No moral bind! (And the assessments, by the way, are hardly prohibitive as some commentators suppose. Some employers, indeed, are considering that option on the basis that it is economically advantageous.)

    Problem solved--except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees' health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer's religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. The employer could not do that--unless he obtained an exemption from the law.

    Oh. Wait. Aren't some employers clamoring for just such an exemption, so they can do just that? Why, yes, they are.